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Professor hopes literature class will encourage study of female writers

Intro to Women’s Literature will feature poetry, short fiction, a novel, and essays by women. Jill Michele looks forward to teaching this course.
Dennis Wahlman / Mainstream
Intro to Women’s Literature will feature poetry, short fiction, a novel, and essays by women. Jill Michele looks forward to teaching this course.

The gender stereotype is that women dominate the English classrooms of American, but in real life, male authors dominate literature courses’ reading lists.

Literature instructor Jill Michell hopes to change that imbalance with her Introduction to Women’s Literature class, to be offered winter term. This four credit course focuses only on writings by women.

“We will be reading some brilliant poetry, short stories and essays written by gifted writers who just happen to be women,” said Michell who is concerned that female writers are too often misrepresented and underrated.

Her concern is legitimate. Male authors dominate on the New York Review of Books list; about 80 percent of the books reviewed are written by men, and about 80 percent of the reviewers are also male, according to Guardian News and Media.

Michell’s course will read poetry and excerpts exclusively from female authors such as Sappho, a Greek poet whose writings were nearly lost during the burning of the Library of Alexandria in ancient Greece. Sappho was highly acclaimed in her lifetime; one of her fans was Plato himself who called her “the poetess.”

Students will also read the writings of Phillis Wheatley, a young slave during the American Revolution whose poetry was read and praised by George Washington.

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, another work of literature on the course syllabus, is called by many the first modern novel. It is a tale of love, loss and family set in Japan during the Heian period (794 to 1185).

 “These are writers that are often neglected in mainstream literature courses,” Michell said. The neglect is not, however, due to lack of merit.

Michell hopes this new course will expose students to literature they have never read before, and she is eager for students to discuss their readings in class.

Michell’s course serves as a literature requirement for students who are planning to transfer to an Oregon university (several major Oregon public universities, such as University of Oregon and Oregon State, require 16 credits of literature courses for a Bachelor of Arts degree). Michell set up the Women’s Literature Course as a 4 credit class which will help students when transferring. Four courses of 4 credits each meet the 16 credit total, but students taking the former three credit literature classes would have to take six classes to meet that same 16 credit requirement.

The course, with its focus on female writers, is for both genders, just as any writing class. “Both male and female students who enjoy great writing will benefit from this course,” Michell said. She also offers a challenge to anyone considering registering: “Are you man enough to take Women’s Literature?” 

Interested students are encouraged to register as soon as possible. The course will be offered Monday and Wednesday from 11 to 12:50 a.m. in Snyder 15. The CRN is 30344.